Rural communities speak out on neighbourhood planning

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GIVING parish and town councils and local people more say on planning proposals in their area will be good for rural communities, suggests a survey.

Almost three-quarters (71 per cent) of respondents said communities would benefit from proposals to introduce statutory neighbourhood planning.

The study was carried out on behalf of the Rural Services Network by Brian Wilson, of research consultants Brian Wilson Associates.

While respondents from all groups questioned were broadly positive, responses from larger rural communities were most likely to be so.

Two-thirds of respondents thought it would be important for their area to prepare a neighbourhood plan in future.

Yet even more saw it as important for their area to engage in traditional ways with the planning system – commenting on the principal authority’s draft Local Plan and on individual planning applications.

Rural Services Network chief executive Graham Biggs MBE said: “Communities responding to the survey felt neighbourhood planning would give local people more opportunity to have a say in planning matters.

“In turn, they felt this would give them more say in the way their area developed. Many felt there was less chance developments would – as they saw it – be imposed on them.”

There were a variety of dislikes with the neighbourhood planning proposals, but those most often mentioned were the expected cost and workload.

This was a particular concern for smaller local parish councils.

Another common theme came from those respondents who said they didn’t believe anything much would change or that power really would devolve.

Designating valued local green space for protection was the thing most respondents would like to do (87 per cent)

However, most of those wanting to protect green space also wanted to plan for some development. Over two-thirds also wanted to lay down design criteria for future development and designate sites for affordable housing.

Designating sites for employment use and community facilities was more popular with larger rural communities.

The survey was conducted among rural communities who are in membership of the Rural Services Network. There were 371 survey responses, most of which came from local (parish and town) councils. A summary of the findings can be downloaded at http://www.rsnonline.org.uk/images/files/neighbourhoodplanningdec11.pdf